SBD/July 11, 2011/Facilities

Rangers Do Not Make Any Major Alterations To Ballpark After Fan's Death

The MLB Rangers on Friday “didn't make any immediate alterations to the height of the railings” at Rangers Ballpark, the day after fan Shannon Stone fell to his death trying to catch a foul ball tossed into the stands by Rangers LF Josh Hamilton, according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. The only change the Rangers made “was the addition of a black tarp over the area where” Stone fell, to “prevent fans from taking photos of the accident site.” Rangers President Nolan Ryan said that Arlington officials “inspected the ballpark Friday morning and said it was up to code.” Wilson noted the railing in left field is 33 inches above the walking surface, which is “7 inches higher than the minimum required in the 2003 International Building Code.” Ryan said that a “decking formerly spanned the area between the stands and the scoreboard, but Rangers officials determined it could encourage fans to step onto it while chasing a ball and possibly fall onto the field of play.” Ryan said a second falling incident at Rangers Ballpark in a span of 366 days is "disturbing." Fan Tyler Morris “suffered a fractured skull and ankle last July when he went over the railing on the second deck and fell 30 feet into the lower bowl going after a foul ball.” Ryan: "As an organization, we're going to look into this, because our No. 1 concern is the safety of our fans, and we'll do whatever we have to do to make this stadium as safe as we possibly can for our fans" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/9). ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett said of the rails, "They’re just as high as they are in most parks, higher than some parks in fact. But the Rangers will try to figure what else they can do” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 7/8). The Rangers on Friday announced that the club’s foundation “has created a Memorial Account in honor of Shannon Stone” (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/8). In Dallas, Bruce Tomaso noted Texas Dairy Queen donated $1 “for each fan” who attended yesterday’s A’s-Rangers game to the Shannon Stone memorial fund (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/10).

NOT CHANGING TRADITION: In Dallas, Evan Grant noted fans who come to Rangers Ballpark “will still receive balls that go foul or are hit for outs that end innings.” Nolan on Friday said, “I’m certainly not going to suggest to our players that we don’t give baseballs away. It’s part of the game” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/9). MLB issued a statement Friday in which it “pledged to review the accident, but issued no formal policies for its teams on the practice of tossing balls to the fans as souvenirs.” Hamilton said that he “would continue to do it occasionally.” Hamilton: “Of course, that’s what the game’s all about. Fans come, they pay to see you play, they want to have a good experience at the ballpark, and player interaction is part of that good experience. It’ll be something that you’ll look carefully at -- at the situations, where the fans are, how high they are up, what’s the railing’s like. All these things will come into play now.” In N.Y., Spousta & Zinser noted Ryan, at the Stone family’s “request, asked news organizations to refrain from replaying video of the accident.” Grief counselors “were made available” to Rangers and A’s players (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9). In Houston, David Barron wrote the accident “raises the question of what Major League Baseball should do, if anything, to regulate one of its cherished practices: the exciting lottery of coming to a ballpark and, with luck, catching a foul ball or home run or picking up a souvenir from your favorite player.” MLB Network’s Mitch Williams said, “I would be really shocked if there wasn’t a new rule that states you can no longer throw balls in the stands.” But ESPN analyst Chris Singleton “hopes MLB takes a middle road, instructing players where they can and can’t throw souvenirs, based on safety surveys of each ballpark” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/9).

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Rangers officials said that it was the “fourth fall -- and the first fatality -- at the stadium since it opened” in '94. In Dallas, Jon Nielsen wrote while “many fans say Thursday’s death was an unavoidable accident that could happen anywhere, experts said the Rangers should have taken additional safety measures after the falls.” The railing that Stone fell over is 33 inches high, but architecture consultant Jake Pauls said that he “would like to see the rails reach 42 inches.” Pauls: “It was not an accident, not a freak accident. It was a predictable, preventable event.” Some fans Friday “considered that placing protective netting underneath concourse levels or between the gap where Stone fell could help, but were afraid that more drastic measures could block out the sights of the ballgame” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/10). MLB Network's Mitch Williams said, "That rail caught that man, Mr. Stone, in the middle of his thigh. ... They ought to make it to where it catches you above your bellybutton. If you’re sitting down at a seat and they put plexiglass up there and you stand up and it’s the height of just above your bellybutton, you can’t topple over that, and you can still see over it if you’re sitting” (“MLB Tonight Live,” MLB Network, 7/8).

SAFETY FIRST: Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner said that team staff members met Friday with risk management officers “to review safety and security measures” at Minute Maid Park. She said that the Astros “believe their plans are solid and no additional measures will be taken when the Astros return for their next homestand” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/9). Marlins Senior VP/Broadcasting & Communications P.J. Loyello said that the team “is taking every precaution at its new ballpark, scheduled to open in April, to make sure fans are protected from similar accidents” (PALM BEACH POST, 7/9).
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